Topic: The Misunderstood Father
Text: Luke 15: 25 – 31
1.This passage is often described as the parable of the Lost Son: Luke 15: 24
2.I am convinced that that is a misinterpretation of the focus of the passage
a.The God who pursues His people
b.The God who restores His people
c.The God who celebrates His people (Luke 15 20, 22 – 24, 32)
3.The story or parable under consideration reveals the perspective of how both sons treated their father, and how He responded to them
Question: How did the father respond to His Sons that should inform, instruct and shape our model of “Fatherhood?”
I.FATHERHOOD IS DEFINED BY GRACE.
II.FATHERHOOD IS DRIVEN BY COMPASSION.
III.FATHERHOOD IS DEMONSTRATED BY ACTS OF RESTORATION AND CELEBRATION.
What a privilege it is to stand in the pulpit where my good friend, Pastor Greg Byman is the pastor. And so, it's really an honor to be here to represent him because as you know, St Community Church is a partner of the Rescue Mission. It is a faithful partner of the mission, but there are about seven pastors or so that I look to. One of your members asked me this morning, how are you handling? How are you coping during this pandemic and the challenging period? And I said, you know, as we are focusing a lot on self-care, it's so important to have pastors who are pastoring other pastors. And that's how I see Pastor Greg.
There are times when I'll give him a call when I'm working through a challenging situation and sometimes 30, 40, 50 minutes, I'm sitting in my car in the parking lot before I step into the building, and that's with Pastor Greg. Now, you and I know he is quite verbose and he can tell a good story, but I can assure you though, it is because he's investing in my life as well, and so we have that kind of relationship. And so, well-deserved, Pastor Greg, take some time off and enjoy your family. And your church is well cared for, I can tell you. Just walking in this morning and just listening to what you're doing, even some refurbishings and so forth, and you're getting this place ready just to continue to serve other folks; it is tremendous. I've seen so many individuals from the church that's a part of the life of the Rescue Mission, so thank you.
It's Father's Day, and I'm sure so many people have a different view in how you've experienced Father's Day personally, but I want us to shift our mind, not only from the imperfections of our earthly father, but I want you to see the perfection of our heavenly father. And so, that then becomes the standard by which fathering or fatherhood ought to be looked at. And as we look at Luke 15:25-31, I want you to know for the next 30 minutes or so, as we welcome those who are online, I want to say welcome to the many from St. Joe Community Church and others in our community who are joining us online. You're missing an incredible experience by not being here, but we understand. And so, we just want to welcome you as well.
Luke 15, and we're going to look at verses 25-31, and we're going to talk about the misunderstood father. I am convinced that as you read this particular passage; if we think it is only a story about the lost son or the prodigal son, you would've missed the point. There is something deeper in this passage that I believe God is, and I'm going to use this word "he's confronting us with." He's confronting us with the ideal father or the ideal parent. And I want you to look at yourselves and as you have experienced fathering or fatherhood; I want you to start by now extending grace to yourself.
There is not one father in this room that will meet or match the standard that has been set by God, the father, and even the father that we see in this parable. And so, we are all in progress. And so I want you just to look around, and I want you to see the other imperfect fathers. Could you just look around and instead of saying happy Father's Day, you say, have a blessed Father's Day. Because you may be walking through something where even as a father or you're not a father yet, but you still have the role of fathering other people that have come into your life. And so, I want you to look around and just assure each person that you're not there yet. In fact, the only time when you will arrive is when the father says, "Come on home." And that's when your life is so utterly transformed, that you can step into the glorious presence of God. And you can say, "I'm glad that's over" because we aren't perfect fathers.
In fact, some of us have been wounded by fathers. It is now time to extend some grace to those situations and circumstances as well. But I want you to extend grace to yourself. This is not a place of guilt or shame, and I can tell you, we are all broken people. So, I'm going to take a few moments just to really remind you that there's only one perfect father, and we're in progress. We're in process, so to speak.
Now, as we look at Luke 15:25-31, I want you to pause a little bit because it's really important; instead of diving into reading the passage, to understand why Jesus shares these three parables. In fact, if you look at Luke 15:1-2, it actually gives you the why. You know, Simon Sinek, who is one of these leadership gurus, he talks about start with why. And so, we hear that a lot "Start with why." The why, for the story of the "Prodigal Son" - notice, I'm dumbing it down by even putting it in quotation marks because the word prodigal means excessive. And I think we often get that from the right living and the squandering and the excess of his son, but prodigal means excess.
Some theologians, they would say to us, it is more the prodigal father. You see this father who is giving out of the excess, out of the majestic eternal reserve that he has, and so he abundantly lavishes love upon his sons. Not just the prodigal son; you will see something strange in how the second son, which is really the oldest son, how he treated the father as well. And so, we tend to miss the real mark by thinking it's the lost son or the Prodigal Son. It's the father that this is all about. So when you leave today, I want you to see the enormity of who God, the father, is and the standard that He sets for His people.
So, look at Luke 15:1-2, and then here's what the Bible says. It says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus." Now, isn't that interesting? You have the tax collectors and the sinners, the ones who should be out partying, the one who should be out distancing themselves away from holiness and Jesus, they are just glued. They are focused and they wanted to hear from Jesus. And as it says here, it says, "But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, they muttered." You can just see them under their breath. Oh my gosh, what is He doing? What is Jesus doing in interacting with these individuals who don't have a sense of the holiness of God and the duty that God prescribes? Notice the word duty there in what I'm saying to you.
And here's what they were muttering. When you look at the text, this man welcomes sinners and eats with them. This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So as you look at Luke 15:1-2, and if you want to underline that, that is the core essential truth of what this passage is all about. So when you think about the Prodigal Son or the lost son, it is a story about how God welcomes and how He eats with sinners. That's the heart of the story of the Prodigal Son. That is the heart of what it means to be a father. It is the look at the ill-repute; it is the look at the oneness; it is look at the wildness of a son who disregards his father, and yet the father pursues him, and that's what this story is all about.
May I say to you that our heavenly father is in pursuit of each one of you and is in pursuit of me. And so, we see this beautiful picture of what it means to have the father, and so let's look at the text. Notice it starts with verse 25; why did I pick starting with verse 25? Because I just didn't want to read the whole thing this morning, but not only that I wanted you to see the story within the story. It starts by saying in the NIV verse 25, "Meanwhile," this is kind of like you're watching your favorite show. You know, you had a long day and now you're watching Wheel of Fortune, knowing that Jeopardy is going to come right after. And you just want to relax, and all of a sudden, late breaking news, something is happening at the White House. And you're thinking, "Oh my Lord." And so, this is what we see here.
Meanwhile, in other words, while this stuff is happening with the son who took the inheritance and left, something else is happening. And I believe what Luke is doing here, he's shifting the story, and he's saying there's another part of the story outside of the Prodigal Son. So when you look at the text, it says - and so let's go to the passage, Luke 15:25. It says, "Meanwhile the oldest son was in the field, when he came near the house..." do we have that on the screen, the verse? "When he came near the house, he heard music and he heard dancing." Verse 26, "So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fatten calve because he has him back safe and sound.' The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him, but he answered his father; 'Look all these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders, you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property,'" then he uses another word here. And we don't know where this guy gets this from in describing his brother. "Not only squandered your property with prostitutes, you come home."
Isn't it interesting? You have a brother who treats your other brother with disdain and then he starts making stuff up. And so not only is he a Prodigal Son, but now he is the son that squandered the wealth to the extent that he was even with prostitutes. And so, what moved from a PG 13 is now and NC-whatever. And so the story shifts, and you see the sortedness, and by the way, you see the reality of what happens with depravity and brokenness. This is a serious situation here. And then notice the righteous son, the one I think who represents the Pharisees and the tax collectors. Do you see how it's working out now?
This son is representative of what we see in verses one and two, where it says the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and what they were saying. And as you look at the text, let's keep going, it says, "and now you have killed the fatten calf for him." You know, it's so interesting; this young son goes to his father; we see that on the first part of the story. And he had the courage to say, "Hey, dad, give me my inheritance." The word he uses is give me that, which represents the sum total of your life that by law you are supposed to give me." Let me say that again. This is what was behind the spirit of this son who is looking for ownership. Give me that which represents the sum total of your life, that the book of Deuteronomy says that I am deserving of. In other words, "Dad, I wish you were dead because it's all about my life and what I am planning on doing. I just want you to give me my stuff."
Now, when you look at the text here and you look at verse 12 to understand the context, he actually gave it to both sons. The difference between the younger son and the older is that the younger son liquidated all the assets. He liquidated the assets. And so, as he liquidated it, he took maybe some land, he took some cattle and he took that which was supposed to be given to him while the older brother was going to get twice of what the younger brother got. But when you look at the text where it says, "so he gathered his things together by implication," what the younger brother did was he liquidated the assets and he took it.
And so we see that this passage, while it is often described - PowerPoint, this passage is often described as a parable of the lost son, and we see that in Luke 15:24. Secondly, I'm convinced that this is a misinterpretation of the focus of the passage. We do see the waywardness or the wildness of the younger son. We see the wickedness of the son. We see later on the willingness for him to return, but the heart of the story is simply this; we see the God who pursues his people - the God who pursues his people. And that is the heart of this particular passage. And so if you are a father this morning, you are a parent, you are a single mom, you are a young couple and you haven't stepped into being parents as yet, but you will experience a situation where you will have a wayward child and you will have somebody who will decide to live on the wild side or on the wayward side. But just as our loving heavenly Father who pursues his people, often, God will call upon you to pursue that wayward child.
You may have a situation right now in your own family or something that you are very well aware of, where it is all about embracing a model; not anything that you have learned from any parent on earth, but you're seeing something in your heavenly Father who pursues, and He goes after. And I'm going to tell you this, my sisters and brothers, it hurts. It hurts to know that you have a family member, you have a child, and you have done everything possible to walk with them and to share with them the truths as best as you know it. And you have dug out of your own inner resources to minister to them, but just like this son, they will say, "Give me everything that you have for me. I am moving on because I am going to be the master of my own fate." And there's nothing that you can do about it, except our heavenly Father, He pursues them.
We see Him also as the God who restores His people. This is what we see in the story. But I love this section here; He's also the God who celebrates His people. And we see that over and over and over in this particular passage, we see how he celebrates His people. This is a picture of that loving heaven Father. He pursues, He restores and He celebrates. The story or parable under consideration reveals the perspective of how both sons treated their father and how he responded to them.
Now, when you look at this passage, and if you are like the typical evangelical believer, we tend to see only the story of the Prodigal Son, right, John? Yeah. In fact, I preach many a sermon on the Prodigal Son, and then we want that son to throw himself at the mercy of the father and then we all celebrate. And then we'll say, and all heaven rejoice, because one sinner comes home. But here's what I love to see in this particular passage. I saw how the younger son treated the father, but I also see how the older son treated the father, and yet you see the consistency in the father.
The best gift gentlemen that you can give to your family is consistency. I didn't say the best thing you can give is perfection. But the best thing that you can give is consistency by consistently getting better at doing what is right from one level to another, because you cannot give or guarantee perfection because you, yourself, you are broken. You are depraved, you are imperfect, but you can make a commitment to be consistently consistent in becoming a better person and a better version of yourself than you were yesterday. There are some things that you will never be able to redeem. Only the loving heavenly father is able to redeem and rescue. You cannot do it. Now it's time for you to extend grace to yourself.
Gentlemen, your wives or the ladies in your life will tell you that you can't fix everything. Women, would you agree with me that their first default position and reaction, in fact, let me pick on my young worship leader. He tries to fix a lot of things, right? But here's the cool thing; he's given it what we call the old college try, to make sure that he steps into that place of taking on the responsibility. And I'm going to tell you now, shifting from my young couple here to others. Many of you men, you have been leading with a limp for all your life. You have been leading out of your own woundedness. You have been working and leading out of your own brokenness, and it is time for you to know that there is something about your heavenly father, He can heal, but you are in process. Give yourself grace.
Don't for one minute think that this preacher on Father's Day is here to make you feel guilty. On the contrary, it is really to release you and to redeem you and to restore you and to let you know that today can become the first day of the rest of your life, where you're establishing a new foundation and a new platform to express the model of fatherhood that we see in our loving heavenly Father. It is time to start over.
When I look at the son in Luke 15:13-20, the younger son, there was immaturity. Tell me if any of this is true of your kids. There's immaturity. There's a sense of drivenness - give me the sum total of your life so that I can go out and squander. Give me my inheritance. I wish you were dead. Have you ever had those? The door slam; fine, fine. I'm out of here. Fine. You don't pay the rent here. Leave, go. You, that was edited. It's real. I know what you go through at home. Why? Because I'm one of you. I'm one of you. And so, immaturity, drivenness, recklessness, and then the son even got to a point of losing his identity.
You see the son now sitting and he's there in the hogs pen; here he is, a Jewish boy in a gentle world, feeding the hogs, desiring what the hogs are eating. That's a loss of identity. There is an interesting word, you don't hear this said much, but the Bible says when he came to his senses, in the story, remember in the first part of the story that we all know? When he came to his senses, that word is when he came out of his madness - could that be a picture of the mental stress and the mental illness and all the onslaught of traumatic experiences and the behavior that he was working through. And the Bible says, "When he came to his senses," he said, "I will arise, and I will go to my father." And then he said, "Father, I've sinned against heaven and against earth. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son, make me one of your hired servants." And so we see the desperation, the remorse. What does the father do? The father, when you look at the passage, verse 22, the father said to his servants, "Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet, bring the fatten calf and kill it."
Do you know what the fatten calf was? According to the best Bible scholars that I've read; the fatten calf was the calf that was reserved, potentially, for the Day of Atonement. It was set aside as that, which represents the sacrificial gift of the father and what he was going to give at the temple, so that the sins of his family and his sins would be covered on Yum Kippur, the day of atonement, or the day of covering. The father says, "Go kill the fatten calf. Not just any other calf, the fatten calf." What a picture of the father? But then the other son steps in. He was angry. There's a spirit of entitlement, stubborn - he heard music; that ticked him off because it wasn't just any music, the word for music here and dance, it was from the Greek word, symphonia. Does that sound familiar? Symphony! In other words, bring the best of music that you could potentially get together at such a short notice, because we're going to celebrate my son who was dead but is now alive.
And just imagine this father throwing that, but then the son shows up and he says, "Dad," nd I'm going to translate this for you. "Who do you think you are, dad? Don't you know who I am? I have been slaving for you, and you have never even given me a little goat to celebrate with my friend, but this son of yours "comes home." See, I don't think you guys read the scripture the way it should be read. This is real. And here's the interesting thing. This father he's standing there and he's listening to this son, the other son, the one who represents the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. And this son, and then all of a sudden the father said, "We had to celebrate your brother."
Look at the text. We had to celebrate your brother. All these years I've been slaving, and then my father - verse 31, the father said, "You're always with me, but you're so busy working that you lose sight of the relationship between me and you. You are doing this out of duty." And this father was basically saying, "Son, it is not about your religious duty, but it is all about you sacrificially responding and loving me back because you have all the resources of heaven." We don't even know the end of the story with the older son, did you notice that? We see an open ending. Here's what I want to say as we bring this home. Both sons reveal the perspective that we bring to God as our father, both sons reveal the perspective.
Which son are you? Are you the son in rebellion right now? Are you the son who believes that you can really do it all by yourself? Are you the son who believes that as far as God is concerned, as far as even my earthly father is concerned, they can take that lifestyle and shove it, and you believe that you don't even need God or your parents? I would love for you to come down to the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission, and I would introduce you to 2100 people who each year will tell you, in many cases that they got to a of saying, you can take it and shove it, and now they're in a homeless shelter. And they're dealing with their own trauma, addictions and mental illness. If you are a wayward son, I want you to know you actually have it good; probably better than many, definitely better than most, but nobody can tell you anything different.
I don't know why I just said what I just did, but you may be on the verge of revolt or rebellion right now. And I'm here to tell you that you don't have a perfect father, and you and your father may need to sit down and walk through and talk through some challenges and some issues. But in the same way you expect your father to extend grace to you at the human level, you may need to extend grace to your father at that level, because there's coming a day when you are just going to be just like him. And so as you think about this, the big idea that I would share with you is that fatherhood demands that a price be paid if we are to be effective in our responses as fathers. What price, dads, moms, single dads, mothers who are raising kids, what price is God calling upon you to pay?
In this story, who do you think paid the price every single time? You see the father at the very beginning of the story - give me my inheritance. He pay. When the son was returning home, who do you think pay the price? Do you think it was the son who said I will arise and go to my father, and he's going to pay the price? In fact, the father did not even allow him to pray the full prayer of surrender. The Bible says the father seemed to have been watching his son, and he goes against the cultural norm and he gathers his clothing. And while he was there waiting, and can you imagine him pacing the floor day after day after day, paying the price, I want to see my boy. I want to see my girl. I want to see my boy. I want to see my boy. I want to see my boy. And he paces. And the day came, when he looks over and he sees this boy coming towards his father, he's coming towards the house, the boy is there rehearsing, "I will arise and I will go to my father and this is I'm going to tell him."
But here's what the Bible says, "The father paid the price of going against the culture and running." Now, there's a tradition; I haven't confirmed it, I've seen it in some theological books. There is a tradition that if a wayward son was coming back into the community, if somebody saw him first and takes a glass jar or a clay pot and smashes it in front of him, it was symbolic you don't belong here. And so, here's his father, he decides to pay the price to go get his boy. And then he immediately does what needs to be done to demonstrate that he is welcomed. See, that's why the robe, the ring and the sandal, maybe the tradition is correct. So instead of reinforcing the fact that you don't belong here, he does an overkill, if you will.
And as you read the text, we see this excessive, this prodigal father, going way beyond the cultural norms and expectations, to make sure that his boy knows that he belongs, and that he will be blessed. And so, this is what we see, and this father, he pays the price, the price of being willing to release his son in the very beginning. That's a hefty price. I've experienced in my own family without getting deeply personal, but when you know your child is heading in a direction, and they're making sure that they go, as far as they possibly can go, and you have no sense of control, you pay the price of release. And that just kills you. Some of you are paying that price still, but here's the blessed thing. You may have paid that price of release, but they're still in the purview of your loving heavenly Father who will watch over them because there's no distance between your prayer and your God and your prayer and where your child is, but you're called upon to pay that price of being willing to release.
Secondly, this is the toughest part; especially if there is still close proximity involved; you have to pay the price by being willing to retreat. You can't do anything, but you can see the situation. You see the condition; you see that it is getting from bad to worse. You have the ability to do something about it, but the system, in some cases, the situation will not allow you to participate, and so you have to pay the price of retreat. That's a tough one, and that's where you need God almighty to intervene. But you also are called upon call upon, and this happens in many cases, you're willing to pay the price to rescue. There is a rescue mission director in the Nashville Tennessee area right now. Twenty plus years ago, his son says, "Dad, I don't want your God. I don't want you. I don't want your lifestyle. I don't want to have anything to do with you." And he watched his son walk away.
For 20 plus years, this director, he's still trying to find his son. Before he became a director, he was an executive in corporate America. He's now a director, thinking that maybe one day I'll interact with somebody who sees my son, who knows my son, and he's willing to pay the price to rescue. I was in San Antonio, Texas two weeks ago; he's still trying to find his son. Here's the question. So, how did the father respond to his sons that should inform, instruct and shape our model of fatherhood? Three ways - real quickly. Number one, fatherhood is defined by grace. Fatherhood is defined by grace. May you experience your own grace today. You have not been a perfect son, you have not been a perfect father, but now it's time to extend grace. Fatherhood is all about grace.
Secondly, fatherhood is driven by compassion. It is driven by compassion. You may be going to a Father's Day event today, and you're sitting on pins and needles not knowing who will show up. You may not even hear the words from your kids saying happy Father's Day. I know what that is. And you pray, and you wait, and you wonder, and you still live, and you still put one foot in front of the other. Once again, you beat yourself up, but I'm asking you to not only extend grace, but to be compassionate, because it's real. I quietly walk through Father's Day because I know where you sit. Don't let the theological background, the leadership and all the stuff; we still deal with our own brokenness as men, and we may not get a hundred percent. So I may not bat 60% on Father's Day, and fatherhood is demonstrated by acts of restoration and celebration. Celebrate your small wins.
Thank you for joining us today here at St. Joe Community Church. And please consider this your formal invitation to join us personally each Sunday for morning worship services. We meet every Sunday at eight 30 and 10:30 AM. The 10 30 service is broadcasted live from the St. Joe homepage, www.stjoecommunitychurch.org. Even better, we'd love to have you visit the St Joe family in person at 2900 North Anthony Boulevard, located just a few blocks south of the Purdue Fort Wayne University Campus on the northeast side of the city. Thanks again for joining us today, and we'll see you next week. Bye for now.
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